Retribution (Page 7)

Retribution (Dark-Hunter #20)(7)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He saw Matilda lying on the bank of the stream where she’d taken him for a picnic not long after their engagement. The sun had been so warm that she’d fallen asleep while he read one of her favorite dime novels out loud to her. Her serene beauty had enchanted him and he’d spent hours watching her, praying for that afternoon not to end.

I love you, William.

He could still hear her voice. See her beautiful smile.Clearing his throat of the sudden lump, he shook his head to clear it, too.

Abigail wasn’t Matilda.

But as she lay there without the hatred shooting out of her eyes at him, she was every bit as beautiful, and it stirred emotions inside him that he’d sworn he buried.

Not wanting to think about that, he went to his room and pulled off his coat and weapons. While he undressed for bed, his thoughts sped around his head as he tried to figure out what had happened to her.

Where she’d been all this time.

I should have checked her for an ID. Yeah, no duh. That would have given him her address and let him know if she was still a Yager or if she’d married.

Feeling like a complete dolt, he went back to see if he could locate one.

He pushed open the door and froze.

The bed was completely empty, and she was nowhere in sight.

Chapter 5

Abigail came awake with a jerk. The last thing she remembered was being strangled by her worst enemy. Pain hit her hard as she came to terms with what had happened.

I failed….

After all these years, she’d finally found the man who’d ruined her life and killed her parents. And he’d overpowered her with an ease that sickened her. She’d risked everything and even allowed her body to be used as an experiment. Still, it hadn’t been enough.

I hate you, Sundown Brady. You rotten bastard!

For a moment, she feared she might have died. But as she focused on the opulent room she was in, she realized she was alive.

And it was o-p-u-l-e-n-t.

The bed she lay on was an ornately carved California king with a dark blue silk duvet that was so light, it felt like moving air. The furniture was the kind of high-end quality that looked like an antique, but wasn’t. There didn’t appear to be any windows, yet the ten-foot ceiling seemed too high to be a basement. And the French tray above her had a beautiful mural painted inside it of a lush forest scene with gilded deer.

I’ve died and gone to a palace….

That was what it seemed like. The room she was in was bigger than her entire house.

Biting her lip in trepidation, she slid off the bed and wandered around. Her first stop was the door that someone had locked. Not that she was surprised. Far from it. She’d have only been shocked had it opened.

Abigail closed her eyes and tried to use her newfound powers to feel what was around her.

Nothing showed. Which meant nothing. She was still too new to her powers to fully command them.

"You were right, Hannah," she whispered. "I should have honed them better before I took off after Brady." But from the moment Jonah told her he had the updated dossier that told them where Sundown was patrolling, she’d been impatient.

Now she was paying for that stupidity.

Where am I? She had no clue to anything. While the room was lush, it didn’t have much in it other than the bed and a dresser and armoire along with two chairs and a coffee table. There was no phone, computer, or clock.

Had Sundown kidnapped her? It was the most likely scenario since she doubted she’d been abducted by a prince, and that made her heart rate speed up. Why would he do that and not kill her?

Unless he wanted to torture her …

Yeah, that would be more his speed. Dark-Hunters were said to be vicious killers who lived to hear their prey beg for mercy while they died. Though to be honest, this didn’t look like a torture chamber. It looked like a palace. The kind of place Jonah would love …

And then she felt sick as her thoughts turned to Perry and Jonah, who’d been with her when she attacked Sundown. No doubt they were both dead. Tears choked her at the thought of their loss. They’d been good friends to her for many years. Better than she deserved some days. She could barely remember a time when they hadn’t been part of her life.

Now they were dead because of Sundown, too. Damn him!

She cursed as she ran through their last few minutes together. Jonah was the one who’d first identified Sundown on the street. She’d wanted to go after him immediately, but Perry had come up with the idea to get him down to the drain so that they could ambush him and keep their actions out of sight of any passersby or police.

Why hadn’t it worked? Her powers should have been enough to defeat him. It was like something else had shielded him from her attacks.

Frustration welled up inside her until she sensed someone approaching her room. She quickly returned to the door and glanced about for something she could use as a weapon. There really wasn’t anything unless she yanked a picture off the wall, and those were so large and unwieldy, they wouldn’t do her any good. Not to mention, they were actual paintings and didn’t have a glass front for her to shatter and use. He didn’t even have a lamp in here to bash him over the head with. The light came from overhead cans that were on a dimmer switch. She’d turn the light off completely, but that wouldn’t help. His eyesight would be much better in the dark than hers.

It didn’t matter. She’d beat him down by hand if she had to. He would not defeat her this time.

She pressed herself back against the wall as the door slowly opened.

* * *

Jess paused as he saw the empty bed. Having survived numerous ambushes in his human life, he knew she’d be nearby, waiting to jump him.

And not in a way a man wanted an attractive woman to jump him.

Since she wasn’t in his line of sight, she must be behind the door. That thought had barely finished before she kicked it into him with everything she had, which was a lot for a little thing. The door hit him hard and slammed against his arm and face. Oh yeah, that was going to leave a mark.

Stunned, he staggered back.

That was a mistake. She came around the door with a feral growl and launched herself at him. Damn, it was like trying to fight off a mountain lion. Come to think of it, he’d rather fight a mountain lion.

Those, he could shoot.

"Stop!" he snarled, trying to get her off him as she pounded him with her fists.

"Not until you’re dead!"

He hissed as she bit his hand. "Trust me, you don’t want me to die."

She elbowed him hard in the stomach. "Why not?"

Jess tried to get a grip on her, but she twisted out of his hold and kicked him hard in the leg. He put some distance between them in the hallway. "You’re locked in my soundproof basement, where no one will ever be able to hear you scream-and they won’t dare come down here to check on me, since they’re not allowed." Definitely not true-he always had a hard time keeping Andy out of his hair, but she didn’t need to know that. "They’ll just think I’m coming and going on my own. You got about a day’s worth of food in the pantry down here. After that, hope you don’t mind eating rotting Dark-Hunter carcass, ’cause, babe, that’s all you’re going to have."

Abigail paused at his words. She would call him a liar, but something in his eyes told her he was being honest. Besides, it made sense from what she knew about Dark-Hunters and their habits. She’d been told by her Apollite brethren that their Squires lived in fear of them and that the Squires interacted with the Dark-Hunters they served only when they had to. Some of them had even welcomed death at Apollite hands to be free of their Dark-Hunter masters. "I could break down the door."

He scoffed at her bravado. "This was designed as a fall-out shelter with ten-foot-thick steel walls. Unless you’re packing some heavy artillery in your foundation garments, sweetie, it ain’t gonna happen. Ain’t no cell service down here or anything else. It’s like a tomb, which it will be if you kill me. But that’s up to you."

She wanted to tear his throat out. Unfortunately, even though she ached to kill him, her self-preservation kicked in. Last thing she wanted was to die … at least before he did. "Why did you bring me here?"

"Why are you killing Dark-Hunters?" he countered.

Stepping back, she raked a repugnant sneer over him. At least as much of one as she could, given his wardrobe change. Dressed in a pair of red flannel Psycho Bunny pajama bottoms that added a sense of humor and whimsy to his I’ll-rip-your-throat-out tough guy aura, and a gray T-shirt, he looked …

Normal. The only thing lethal about him now was his giant size and those dark eyes that promised her death.

She swallowed before she answered. "Why do you think?"

"Other than the fact that you’re as loco as a three-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory, I’m as clueless as a newborn colt."

Abigail’s stomach churned at his words. "Oh I forgot. You think it’s all right to kill innocent Apollites and humans and prey on them. Well, I have news for you, buster. We’re not taking it anymore. Your days of killing us are over, and we’re hunting you now."

Frowning, he snapped his head back with a baffled expression. "Come again?"

"Are you deaf?"

"No, ma’am. But I know you didn’t just accuse me of killing the very things I protect."

His denial shot a fresh bomb of rage through her. Grinding her teeth, she lunged at him.

Jess caught her against his chest. She stomped his instep. Cursing, he bent over and stumbled back. Big mistake. She slammed her hands across his ears. Pain splintered his skull. She would have kneed him in the face had he not put a little more distance between them.

Sick of being beat on, he cursed himself for declining the handcuffs.

His only course of action was to wrap himself around her and brace her flat against the wall so that she couldn’t continue to hurt him. "Stop fighting," he snarled in her ear.

"No! You took everything from me, and I’m going to kill you for it."

That only confused him more. "What are you talking about?"

"You murdered my parents. You bastard!"

For a few heartbeats, he couldn’t breathe as he flashed back to his life as a human. Change out the word parents with father and make her a man, and he remembered the day when someone else had leveled that accusation. After it was said, the man drew his gun and shot him.

The bullet had gone into his shoulder. Acting on pure instinct honed by countless gunfights, Jess had pulled his own Colt out and returned the favor. Only his bullet went straight through the man’s head. It wasn’t until Jess checked him that he realized that man was a sixteen-year-old boy who’d stared up at him in agony while the light drained out of his eyes. The father he’d mentioned had been a cardsharp who’d tried to gun Jess down outside a saloon a few weeks before that. Stupid fool had pulled a derringer on him. Jess had disarmed him, and when the gambler went to stab him, he’d shot him at point-blank range.

Justified.

But the kid’s death …

That was one of dozens of such memories he wished to God he could purge out of his mind.

"I haven’t killed a human being in over a hundred and forty years, and I damned sure didn’t kill your parents."

She shrieked at him, then thrashed about with enough force to free herself from his hold. "You don’t even remember? You worthless, rotten-"

He caught her hand before she slapped him. "Honey, I haven’t shot a human since I was one. Only piece of loco around here would be you."

She shoved him back and tried to kick him. "I saw you with my own eyes. You gunned them down in cold blood."

That set fire to his temper. He might have been a lot of things, but that … that … "Oh, like hell. I have never in my life killed anyone in cold blood."

She curled her lip. "Right … You’re a hired killer. It’s all you’ve ever known. You’ve never cared who and what you put down so long as you got paid for it."

"Was"-he stressed the word-"and those I killed, I did so in a fair duel. They had as much a chance of living as I did." While he was the first to admit he’d been a cold-blooded criminal, unlike Bart, he’d had lines he wouldn’t cross. Things no amount of money could make him do. "I swear to God that I did not kill your parents."

Abigail hesitated. He meant what he was saying. She could see it in his eyes and hear it in his indignant tone. "How could you forget that night? I heard you fighting with my father. You left and then came back and broke into our house."

He held his hands up to emphasize his point. "I have never broken into a house. A bank, most definitely. A train a time or two to rob payrolls, but never someone’s home."

"You’re lying."

He shook his head. "I don’t lie. I’ve got no need to."

"Bullshit. I was there. I saw you."

"And I’m telling you right now that I wasn’t. On the soul of my mother, I didn’t kill them. And while I fought with your dad, I never once struck him or even insulted him." Then to her utmost shock, he went to a cabinet a little farther down the hallway and opened a drawer that had a safe with a hand scanner. He put his palm on top and opened the safe. Inside was a handgun and KA-BAR. He pulled the knife out.

Her heart pounded as she realized he was going to stab her. She braced herself for the fight.

It didn’t come.

Instead, he flipped the KA-BAR around so that the blade faced his body and the hilt was toward her. "If you really, truly think I killed your parents, have your vengeance." He placed the knife in her hand.